Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Young People Pray




Looking for new ideas to incorporate into the Sunday Intercessions I asked a friend who teaches middle school Earth Science if she could find a way to ask her classes for insights. As these are public school teenagers (basically 13 years old) the question would have to be posed delicately.

So she showed them a short film about a town that had been leveled by a tornado. An elderly woman was interviewed who had survived by hiding in the bathroom of her home with her dog in her arms. After the tornado came through which lifted her up and threw her outside, she was found lying in the wreckage, calling for the dog, but there was no response. 

But during the interview the camera woman saw the dog trapped underneath the house-debris. When the dog was freed and given back to the owner she said, "God already answered my prayer that I'd survive and now has answered another prayer, that I'd find my dog alive."

After the film the young people formed groups to discuss the woman's response to surviving and having her dog returned alive. In one group there was a Muslim boy wearing a round cap, a Sikh boy wearing a turban and a Hindu girl. These are the American-born sons and daughters of immigrants from India, Pakistan, Philippines, China, Vietnam, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Jamaica West Indies, Puerto Rico, Mexico and even one from Romania. 

The teacher asked: "If you were going to pray, what would you pray or wish for? Write what you want, but don't pray that your favorite team will win. And no one else will know what you've written." Some of the teens have a larger world view already while others see the world smaller, more immediate and close. We might read between the lines and detect school fears and learning issues, depression, distraction and anxieties. Here are their prayer-concerns.

  • for happiness in my family
  • for people who are sick and who will never get better
  • for cures for diseases
  • for a cure for cancer
  • for terrorism to end
  • for no more bombings
  • to see my family again
  • for people who have no food
  • to keep my family safe and together
  • for world peace
  • for friendships to last
  • for the people whose house burned down
  • for people not to talk behind your back
  • to be happy
  • for wars to end
  • for kids in hospitals
  • for people with autism
  • to feel safe
  • to be a good person
  • for people to be nice to each other
  • to stay in one place
  • to feel normal

I think these prayer concerns are amazing in their sensitivity and awareness. Some people ask if prayer works. That sounds magical to me. For me, the first thing prayer does is it awakens the heart. That's all I care about - that our hearts come out of the alluring coma. We hope that each generation will somehow be better than the one before. I feel hope here.



20 comments:

  1. Wonderful! Kids opening up about what they find important to pray for. These prayer wishes are not so different from my own.

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    1. Yes! And Jesus tells us, "Unless you be like little children you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven." To pray with a child's heart!

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  2. I feel hope also. That these children can work together and discuss issues about religion in a cohesive environment. We don't often hear about these things so it is nice to know it happens. Opening up diologue without the need for heated debate is the first step to peaceful existence. We are not so different in our hopes and dreams after all.

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    1. Yes isn't it wonderful - that mix of kids and in a public school and no rancor or contentious debate, 'I"m right; you're wrong." No one being sent to hell for believing differently, discovering what's in the heart and held in common. How refreshing!

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  3. It really is inspiring on many levels. Thank you for sharing this story. There is hope in our youth. They have not given up on prayer so we shouldn't either.

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  4. An important lesson for us all. To keep our hearts and minds open and receptive. Our differences are erased in wanting the same things for ourselves, our loved ones and for the world. Blessed are the children who hold our future in their hands.

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  5. It is indeed remarkable that these kids from faiths and beliefs can see that they share the same hopes and desires. My prayer would be that they remember this life lesson as they grow and mature.

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  6. The power of prayer is not the result of the person praying. Rather, the power resides in the God who is being prayed to. We cannot access powerful prayer by using "magic formulas." Our prayers being answered is not based on the eloquence of our prayers. We don't have to use certain words or phrases to get God to listen. These kids seem to understand.

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  7. There is nothing more lovely, nothing greater our hearts can seek than a connection with God. I applaud this class for taking the question to heart and honestly responding with their petitions. I feel for those who ask to be happy or to feel normal. What pain they might carry. Yet others ask for world peace and the end to bombings. They are not unfamiliar with the problems of the world. Let us not discount the voices of our youth. They may be wiser than we judge them to be. Thanks to you and your friend for sharing their concerns and enlightening us to what discussions can take place in our schools today. It is quite refreshing as you said in an earlier comment.

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  8. Children aren't born with prejudices. They learn them along the way. It was a good learning experience for me to see these kids who watched a video of a tragedy and turn it into something positive. They must all pray to a different God or some form of higher being, yet they all see the world through similar eyes. Their shared experiences in their community make them more the same than different. Same problems, same worries, same hopes and dreams.

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  9. As a teenager it is interesting to see how children from different religious backgrounds find common ground while praying. The students all pray for some general form of peace or happiness, even though some of the students may be praying to someone other than Jesus Christ. This kind of religious coexistence, even on a such a small scale is inspiring. I would pray for this type of coexistence to spread around the world.

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  10. A good post to encourage the grandkids to go to. The picture alone is worth seeing when enlarged. They are such good kids and need to be listened to.

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  11. I am both surprised and happy when I see that teens and young folks are reading your Pauca Verba blog posts. It shows their desire to learn and grow in their faith. Thanks to you and your teacher friend for sharing this. It's enlightening.

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  12. Priest-privilege: the opportunities to talk with young people about these things.

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    1. What do you mean by "priest-privilege" here? Conversations about religion and faith? I don't see too many young people talking to priests today. It seems to be a lost connection. I am delighted to know that such conversation still exists for you.

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    2. For fifteen years I was chaplain to a school-community of about 300 teens - kids who had lost their way. It was a great privilege for me. They had done very wrong things but they often had a felt need for salvation that I only now and again encounter in an adult who's never known trouble or "wrong turns". If the young people aren't coming to see the priest and talk with him then he ought to go out and find them.

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  13. I love that you did this Father. It is a great thing to be able to foster relationships.

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  14. I remember this post about young people sharing their thoughts on prayer. They have moved on to a new grade, and are having new experiences, but their prayers are most likely unchanged. I wonder if they feel safe or if they have an awareness of the repercussions of the upcoming election. A child's mind is so open and easily molded. I pray that they will continue to be guided and nurtured along a good path.

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  15. From this post I see unity and togetherness. A diverse group able to talk about a topic that bonds them even in their differences. I can only hope for them that they don't give up in their desire for these prayers to come true. To feel safe and accepted in this world. Amen.

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